After wandering around Thailand and Laos without any real purpose other than to see cool things, I felt ready for a little more of a routine.

I really enjoyed my volunteer experience in Nepal, so I thought I would try it again in Cambodia with a different organization to see how it would compare.  I’ll spare you the details of my constant self-doubt and internal conflicts that resulted from my volunteer position, but basically I felt morally torn as to whether what I was doing was right or if I was effectively contributing to corruption in voluntourisim, especially within orphanages.

I spent the majority of my two weeks in Siem Reap at a volunteer house with other young volunteers.  That in itself really affected the way I felt while I was there; it wasn’t an authentic experience and it mostly felt like I was living in a dorm with a bunch of young college kids with ulterior motives.  But in the end, my experience isn’t something that I would change regardless of how I felt during the time and if anything, I feel like I can now make a more educated decision regarding volunteering abroad.

Siem Reap itself is a loud tourist trap of a city, and I found it hard to escape the constant calls of tuk-tuk drivers and peddlers.  I didn’t give myself too much time in Cambodia, since I wanted to meet my parents in South Korea, so I made Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples my priority when I had time off from volunteering.

I went with a few volunteers early in the morning to Angkor Wat for sunrise.  It was definitely worth battling the throngs of people to see it because 1) it was spectacular and 2) it wasn’t a million degrees out… yet.

The temple is, for lack of a better word, impressive.  I could have spent all day just strolling around the grounds there.  It was absolutely stunning and overwhelming.  It’s hard to believe that people could create such beautifully intricate works of art with nothing but a chisel.

I bought a 3-day pass for the park, so the next day I rented a bike for a dollar and rode out along the big circuit to see some of the other popular temples in the area.

From my volunteer house and back, the ride was about 26 miles.  It wasn’t difficult at all, since the roads are flat, traffic on the big circuit is light and you’re constantly stopping along the way at various places.  You can certainly hire a tuk-tuk to take you around as it would be faster and save you a lot of energy, but there was something so much more peaceful and rewarding doing it on my own.

I visited more temples along the big circuit than I can remember, among which were Prasat Kravan:

and Srah Srang, the royal bath:

At one point, I hired a motor-bike to take me further out to another famous temple, Benteay Srei, which translates to “city of women”.  Supposedly, it is believed that women were the main artists of the temple, based on the surpassing intricacy of the carvings compared to the surrounding temples.

It’s been very well restored and unlike most other temples, the majority of the grounds had been roped off to prevent damage from foot traffic.

Bayon was equally impressive as Angkor Wat and just as weird with looming faces peering at you from every corner.

I visited there late in the afternoon when the traffic had died down and people were making their way to Angkor Wat to witness the sunset, so it was much more peaceful to walk around.

Ta Prohm was a mad-house of tour groups.  The tree growth takes over the temple stones and if it weren’t for all the tourists, I could have closed my eyes and pretended I was Indiana Jones for the day.  I bet he never had to deal with swarms of tourists to enter the temple (Nazis, maybe…)

All in all, I had the best experience biking around the temple by myself, and saw just about everything that I sought out.  I’d like to think that it’s always best to leave a few things unseen for the next time.

Ok, one more monkey picture, because I just can’t resist.  This guy was cracking me up.

Alternate title: I’m the worst knitting blogger ever because I never publish posts about my FO’s in a timely manner.

Alternately alternate title: I’m the worst knitting blogger ever because I forgot to take a picture of recipient in FO, so I had to ask recipient to provide me a photo.

Well, we can’t be perfect at everything, and since I’m just about perfect with everything else, I’ll let my poor blogging skills take one for the team.  Hah!  I’m the best….. in my mind.

Since we are on the subjects of cowls, I thought I would show you this one that I made so many moons ago.  A stockinette cowl in the round.  Because life is too short to act like you’re too good to knit plain stockinette in the round.  I’m not too good.  This cowl is way too good for me, however, so that’s why I gave it to my sister.  Because she’s good enough for the cowl.

I started it way back in October when I went to New York (and visited the shop that wrote the pattern) and finished it a day before Christmas/my sister’s birthday.  She loves it, of course.  Who wouldn’t?  It’s delicately feminine chic.  All those things I’m not, which is why she gets the cowl and I don’t.  Also she wears it better than I ever could.

Project Details:

Pattern: White Caps Cowl by Purl Soho
Yarn: Habu Textiles, Cotton Slub and Sizing Silk
Needles: US 4
Modifications: Didn’t do the decreases at the top of the cowl and knitted a few less repeats.  Also I spilled some red wine on the silk.  Does that count as a mod?  Probably not.
Recommend to a Friend: Yes!  Easy to knit and super silky soft to wear.

I love it!  When I first thought about combining all the skeins together to knit a cowl, I was expecting the colors to clash a little, but as it turns out, the colors couldn’t be better suited for each other.  And as chance would have it, I had the perfect buttons on hand for the project: the sheep horn buttons I got from Rhinebeck.  I love the natural color of the buttons against all the wild colors of the cowl.

Best part is that I have enough yarn left over to make another cowl, maybe even two.  But just to keep things interesting, I might knit them up with slightly different construction.  Ideas are a-brewing in this knitter’s noggin.  It feels mighty good to be back to knitting.

Project Details

Pattern: My own.  Knit flat in garter stitch, alternating skeins, adding button holes where I thought appropriate.
Yarn: My own handspun from Ashland Merino Top in a variety of colors.
Needles: US 9

 

Or: Dusting off the needles

Or: Getting over the “I’ll do that tomorrow” syndrome

It’s been almost three weeks since I’ve arrived back in the states and I’ve been riding out all the classic excuses for the lack of posts and general productivity, including but not limited to: jet-lag, catching up with friends, organizing my things, establishing a new home… But after a while, those excuses get played out and you just start looking (and feeling) like a bum.  Believe me, there were days that I pulled out my computer with every intention of blogging about Cambodia and South Korea, and then I thought: maybe tomorrow.  That happened a lot.

The truth is that the last three weeks home flew by so fast that I’ve hardly had any time to process anything and now that I have access to all my things again, it’s like I just acquired a bunch of new toys.  There’s so much that I want to do right now, that I hardly know where to start…  Ok, you got me.  I totally know where to start: my yarn stash.  I pulled out my storage bins of yarn and gazed upon the treasures that I left behind.  I felt like I just walked into a yarn store where everything was free.  So many things to touch and sniff and play with, that I couldn’t even grasp the fact that I had to choose only one thing to work on.  Would you believe me if I told you that I haven’t knit a single stitch or taken a deep whiff of merino wool in the last 16 weeks?  I hardly believe it myself.  So you can imagine I was a little overwhelmed with my options.  In the end, after much hemming and hawing, I picked out my first handspun mini-skeins.

I began spinning them at the Knot Hysteria retreat in November and left the retreat with bags full of roving in all kinds of colors.  When I got home, I went on a spinning kick.  I spun four more mini-skeins right off the bat before getting completely distracted with other things (isn’t that just how it always goes?).  I finished plying the last one right before I left on my trip in March.  For as many WIP’s as I have lying around, I just can’t bear to see these linger in that pile for any longer.  I’m knitting a garter stitch cowl and am alternating the skeins every RS row.  There’s no pattern or logic to which skein I pick next; that’s what makes this project the perfect thing to get me back into knitting.  No rules, no pressure.  Just knit stitch.  I love how all the colors are playing nicely with each other.  You wouldn’t think it, looking at them individually, but this is turning into a real winner.

PS. I plan on getting my last month of travels posted on here real soon.  Just bear with me while I get back into the swing of things.

Mangosteen, mangosteen. Where have you been all my life? Why have I just now only tasted the sweet sweet juice of your fruit? It’s as though my life has just begun. Everything I’ve experienced pre-mangosteen just doesn’t seem to compare. Forgive my melodramatics, but I think I have found my most favorite fruit in the world.

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Purple mangosteen
Sweet white flesh in clusters
My life begins now

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